Professor Sean Coyle LLB, PhD

Birmingham Law School
Professor of Jurisprudence

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Coyle writes and teaches on aspects of legal and political philosophy. In 2004 his work won one of the SLS Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship. His next book, From Positivism to Idealism, was shortlisted for the 2008 Inner Temple Book Prize. His third book, Dimensions of Politics and English Jurisprudence, was the subject of a conference at the University of Notre Dame, USA in 2013. In addition, he is the author of a student text, Modern Jurisprudence (2nd ed 2017). He is currently writing a book on natural law theory.

He has lectured and spoken at universities throughout the UK and elsewhere, including Emory University, LSE, UCL, and the Universities of Antwerp, Manchester and Minnesota.

At Birmingham, he is a member of the Jurisprudence research group, and is director of the Forum for the Study of Natural Law.


  • LLB (Hons), University of Dundee
  • PhD in Jurisprudence, University of Glasgow


Professor of Jurisprudence 2011-present; previously Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Exeter (2009-11), Reader in Jurisprudence, University College London (2005-09), Lecturer in Laws, University College London (2003-05), and Lecturer in Law, University of Durham 


  • Jurisprudence (LLB Y2)
  • Political and Legal Theory II (LLB Y3)
  • Advanced Political and Legal Theory (LLM)

Postgraduate supervision

All areas of legal and political philosophy.

Current PhD students:

Paul Dale (Austin and international law)
Patricia Santos (Corporate social responsibility)
Najmadeen Muhamad (Fuller and human dignity)
Giles Pengelly (Legitimate expectations)

Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.



All areas of legal and political philosophy, centring especially on theories of natural law.

Current projects

Recent work has focused on the natural law theory and ethics of Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius and Francisco Suarez. Present work includes a book entitled Natural Law and Modern Society.

Other activities

  • Editorial Board member (and former Editor) of Jurisprudence: An International Journal of Legal and Political Thought.
  • Editorial Board member, Law and Practical Reason (monograph series, Hart Publishing)
  • Editorial Board member, Journal of Human Rights and the Environment (Elgar)



  • Modern Jurisprudence — a Philosophical Guide second edition (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2017) xiii + 271pp; first edition (Hart, 2014) xii + 261pp.
  • Dimensions of Politics and English Jurisprudence (Cambridge University Press, 2013) xi + c.384pp.*
  • From Positivism to Idealism - A Study of the Moral Dimensions of Legality. Applied Legal Theory Series, general ed. Tom Campbell (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007) x + 187pp.
  • Jurisprudence or Legal Science? (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2005), ed. with G. Pavlakos, Antwerp/Glasgow, ix + 184pp.
  • The Philosophical Foundations of Environmental Law. (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2004), with K. Morrow, Swansea, xv + 228pp.
  • Studies in Legal Systems: Mixed and Mixing. (London, Kluwer International, 1996), ed. with E Attwooll & E Orucu, Glasgow.

Articles & Book Chapters:

  • Toward a New Jurisprudence? 81 Modern Law Review (2018) 906-919
  • Can Natural Laws be Derived From Human Sociability? New Blackfriars (forthcoming, published online May 2018).*
  • Natural Law in Aquinas and Suarez. 8 Jurisprudence (2017) 319-341.*
  • Natural Law and Goodness in Thomistic Ethics. 30 Canadian J of Law and Jurisprudence (2017) 77-96.*
  • Natural Law in Aquinas and Grotius — An Ethics for Our Times? New Blackfriars (2016) 591-609.*
  • Labour Rights as Natural Rights. In M Fineman ed. Vulnerability and the Legal Organisation of Work (Ashgate 2016) 79-89
  • Radicalism and Conservatism in Environmental Law. In Grear ed. Thought, Law, Rights and Action in the Age of Environmental Crisis (Elgar 2015) 96-123
  • Property Rights, Environmental Justice and Worldly Order - Lessons from Natural Law. In L. Kotze ed. Research Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment (Edward Elgar, 2014) 102-121
  • Legality and the Liberal Order. 76 Modern Law Review (2013), 401-418.
  • The Ideality of Law (II). In T. Brooks ed. Studies in Moral Philosophy: Law and Legal Theory (Brill, 2013) 71-92
  • Vulnerability and the Liberal Order. In M. Fineman & A. Grear eds. Vulnerability (University of Chicago Press, 2013). 61-77
  • Fallen Justice. 93 New Blackfriars (2012), 687-709.
  • Western Jurisprudence and Study of Law. In Bin Liang & Hong Lu eds. Jurisprudence: Western Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 11 (⻄西⽅方⼈人⽂文社科前沿述评 丛书) (Beijing, China Renmin University Press, 2012) (in Mandarin), c. 10,000 words
  • The Intellectual Commitments of Modern Juridical Thought. XXIII Canadian J of Law and Jurisprudence (2010), 1-22
  • Legalism and Modernity. 35 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy (2010), 55-84
  • The Ideality of Law (I). 6 Journal of Moral Philosophy (2009), 521-34
  • The Limits of Legal Ideologies. 60 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (2009), 471-86
  • The Human Face of the Rule of Law. 62 Current Legal Problems (2009), 71-101
  • The Reality of the Enlightenment. 17 British Journal of the History of Philosophy (2009), 849-58 20. Justice Without Mercy. 60 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (2009), 343-59
  • A Propos of a Treatise of Legal Philosophy and General Jurisprudence. 22 Ratio Juris (2009), 155-70
  • Positivism as a Statist Philosophy of Law. 59 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (2008) 49-72
  • Positivism, Idealism and the Rule of Law. 26 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2006), 257-88
  • Practices and the Rule of Recognition. 25 Law and Philosophy (2006) 417-52
  • “Protestant” Political Theory and the Significance of Rights. 56 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (2005), 551-84
  • Two Concepts of Legal Analysis. In Coyle & Pavlakos eds. Jurisprudence or Legal Science? (2005), 21-47.
  • Jurisprudence or Legal Science? In Coyle & Pavlakos eds. Jurisprudence or Legal Science? (2005), i-xvi.
  • Facing Jorgensen’s Dilemma. 55 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (2004), 341-57.
  • Common Law. IVR Encyclopaedia of Jurisprudence, Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law (2004).
  • Thomas Hobbes and the Intellectual Origins of Legal Positivism. XVI Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (2003), 243-70.
  • The Possibility of Deontic Logic. 15 Ratio Juris (2002), 289-318.
  • Hart, Raz and the Concept of a Legal System. 21 Law and Philosophy (2002), 275-304.
  • Are There Necessary Truths About Rights? XV Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (2002), 21-49.
  • The Meaning of the Logical Constants in Deontic Logic. 12 Ratio Juris (1999), 39-58.
  • Our Knowledge of the Legal Order. 5 Legal Theory (1999), 389-413.
  • Introduction. In Orucu, Attwooll & Coyle eds. Studies in Legal Systems: Mixed and Mixing (1996), ix-xvii.


  • Review of R Barnes, Property Rights and Natural Resources. (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2009). Environmental Law Review (2010).
  • Review of EA Curran, Reclaiming the Rights of the Hobbesian Subject. (Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2007), 17 British Journal of the History of Philosophy (2009), 210-13.
  • Review of RCA Higgins. The Moral Limits of Law. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004). 64 Cambridge Law Journal (2005), 749-52.
  • Review of WN Hohfeld, Fundamental Juridical Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning, ed. D Campbell & P Thomas with an introduction by NE Simmonds. (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2001), 7 Edinburgh Law Review (2003), 268-71.

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Legal and political philosophy including jurisprudence